From the Office to the Streets: PAU Alumna Trades Inpatient Work for Unique Outpatient Pilot Program in San Mateo County

Friday, October 12, 2018

When Amar A.B. Robinson completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at PAU in 2015, she never imagined she would be spending her time working with the homeless, inmates at the county jail, and collaborating with police while conducting psychological for an innovative program for people with severe mental illness.  As an Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) psychologist for San Mateo County, Dr. Robinson’s job is to assess potential clients for the County’s AOT program, write mental health declarations and serve as an expert court witness. Every day is different.

Developed out of San Mateo County’s adoption of Laura’s Law (Assembly Bill 1421) in 2015, AOT is a pilot program that helps people who are not connected to services and challenged to live safely and stably in the community. The program provides 24/7 case management services and a range of other support services to help individuals to achieve and maintain their physical and mental health. Initial results for the San Mateo County AOT are very encouraging. Incarcerations, incidence of homelessness, and episodes of hospitalizations among program participants have fallen significantly.

“I loved working as a psychotherapist and seeing patients in my office,” said Dr. Robinson, referring to her previous job where she worked for several years as an inpatient clinician at San Mateo Medical Center.   “But when I witnessed people circling in and out of jails and hospitals, I was struck by the need to help these individuals break out of a vicious cycle and get the treatment they needed, so I stepped into a new role with the county. I think I’ve found a new calling here.”   

“Amar has taken her role far beyond what one might think of for the average psychologist. She is the modern day clinician taking her skills and wisdom wherever she is needed,” said Dr. Robinson’s manager, Terry Wilcox, M.S., M.F.T., San Mateo AOT Clinical Services Manager. “I might find her in a family home, out in a park, or in other settings where the clients we try to engage feel the most comfortable. We can count on her to do what it takes to make the biggest impact with each client.”

“My doctoral program at PAU and practicum experiences at the Institute on Aging and in the Tenderloin Outpatient Clinic in San Francisco were invaluable for gaining the skills, field experience and sensibilities in helping me to make a real difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable, difficult cases in the county,” said Dr. Robinson. “Every day I rely on the excellent clinical interviewing and diagnostic training I received.”  

Upon completing her internship and postdoctoral work at the county hospital, San Mateo Medical Center, Dr. Robinson began therapeutic work with inpatient populations. “The severity of trauma, hopelessness, medical difficulty, psychiatric complexity and lack of supportive resources really struck me as a huge part of how the problem continues,” she explained. “We found out that when people are offered an intensive level of outpatient support, their need to return to the hospital or become re-incarcerated is drastically reduced and their overall health and well-being benefits.”

More information about the San Mateo AOT Program including program criteria, how to refer someone for AOT, and the AOT process can be found here.

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